See the parade of Samurai in the town associated with Yoshida Shoin!

Shōin-Jinjamae is a town about a 30-minute train ride from Shibuya. There are about 150 shops that surround the station, and the area mixes old-school traditional food and clothing stores with new Western style cafes and bookshops. Recently, it has become popular in the Setagaya district as a center for tourism.
The area’s name comes from its’ Shinto shrine, the Shōin Jinja, which is dedicated to the important historical figure Yoshida Shōin. Every year a festival is held along the main shopping street marking ‘Bakumatsu Ishin’ (幕末維新), the period before the restoration of the Japanese Emperor in 1868 and the beginning of modern Japan. It’s a period in which Yoshida Shōin was heavily involved in.
So, with this as our start, let’s go shopping, and maybe learn a bit of history too!

2018-09-06 Alex Brown   Festivals & Events, Traditions & History, Tokyo,

Offer a prayer to study at a shrine dedicated to Yoshida Shōin.

The main shrine at Shōin Jinja.

Yoshida Shōin was born in 1830 in what is now the city of Hagi in Yamaguchi Prefecture. He displayed a gifted mind from early childhood, and in 1856 took over his uncle’s private school (called the Shōkason-juku). There, he nurtured a number of exceptional students who later became active in the 1868 Meiji Restoration. This was a turbulent time in Japanese history that marked the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the return of imperial rule under Emperor Meiji, leading to the country’s modernization.
Yoshida Shōin did not live to see this happen. He was executed in 1859 at the age of 29. His grave is found at Shōin Jinja.
It’s said this shrine bestows an advantage to study and learning, and every year many visitors come to pray for success in education. The grounds of the shrine Yoshida Shōin’s Shōkason-juku school building has also been recreated, and on weekends and holidays the shutters are opened up and it’s possible to take a peek inside.

The Shōkason-juku school building (replica).

Charms for academic success are available to purchase, so you can take some good luck home with you. Please check the official website (in Japanese only) for details of office holidays when charms, amulets and talisman are not available, as well as information on purification ceremonies.

Shōin Jinja (松陰神社)

  • Address:4-35-1 Wakabayashi, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo.
  • Telephone:03-3421-4834.
  • text only)

Find out more about Yoshida Shōin and his students

松陰本舗 松下村塾學び館
Shōin Honpo Shōkason-juku Learning Center

The Shōkason-juku Learning Center has an archive of material on Yoshida Shōin, his students, and disciples, and is free to to the public.
The space also acts as a rest area, and provides information on the Shōin-Jinjamae neighborhood.
You can also get coffee here that remarkably has been made using roasting methods from the Edo period, recreating the taste of that age.
I found the flavor mellow and delicate, making it easy to drink even for those who aren’t coffee lovers.

Coffee recreating the taste of the Edo era Japan.
Coffee recreating the taste of the Edo era Japan.

Also on sale are roasted sweet potatoes, using a variety called ‘Beniharuka’ from Kagoshima in Kyushu. Surprisingly sweet, you can even eat the skin. Plus, they don’t harden as they cool, so they make great souvenirs.
When you want to take a break after walking around, how about stopping here for coffee and a roasted potato?

Surprisingly sweet ‘Beniharuka’ roasted potatoes.
Surprisingly sweet ‘Beniharuka’ roasted potatoes.

The Learning Center also sells original Yoshida Shōin goods and books on Japanese history. You can get detailed explanations about these from the knowledgeable staff.
Various historical themed events also take place, so check the website below for details.

Shōin Honpo Shōkason-juku Learning Center (松陰本舗 松下村塾學び館)

  • Address:101F Pacific Shōin-Jinjamae 4-27-2 Wakabayashi, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo.
  • Opening hours:9am-6pm daily (may close for irregular holidays).
  • Telephone:070-5527-2229.
  • Website text only)

Get a flavor of the last days of the Shogunate at the Bakumatsu Ishin Festival.

Yoshida Shōin leads the parade of Samurai at the Bakumatsu Ishin Festival.
Yoshida Shōin leads the parade of Samurai at the Bakumatsu Ishin Festival.

This year saw the 25th Bakumatsu Ishin Festival, which takes place each autumn around the anniversary of Yoshida Shōin’s death. The event is held along Shōin-Jinjamae’s main shopping street.
Roughly 55,000 visitors attended this year’s festival which takes place over two days. On the second day there is a parade of people dressed as Samurai. Beginning with Yoshida Shōin and well known loyalists to his cause, there is also Takasugi Shinsaku, one of Yoshida’s pupils and an important political figure who established the militia group called the Kiheitai. The Kiheitai was a small band of reformist Samurai and ordinary people that adopted modern Western fighting techniques, and was crucial to the eventual formation of the Imperial Japanese Army.
There is also a display of local products from Yoshida Shōin’s hometown city of Hagi in Yamaguchi Prefecture, and Aizuwakamatsu City in Fukushima Prefecture, another place of historical importance during this period.

Delicious and interesting items from the cities of Hagi and Aizuwakamatsu.
Delicious and interesting items from the cities of Hagi and Aizuwakamatsu.

It’s no exaggeration to say this is one of the three main festivals in Setagaya-ku. Why not come next year at the end of October and enjoy the atmosphere of Bakumatsu, the birth of modern Japan!

Be inspired by the words of Yoshida Shōin and discover some great books.

Fashionable bookshop ‘nostos books’.
Fashionable bookshop ‘nostos books’.

Yoshida Shōin once wrote: ‘Reading can cause great change in people. The power of books should be revered’ (読書最も能く人を移す。畏るべきかな書や).
By reading, we increase our knowledge, extend our possibilities, and enrich the way we think about the choices we make. While holding clear opinions of our own, we can accept and be sensitive to the opinions of others, and become cultivated and broad minded people.
According to the writings of Yoshida Shōin, reading has a positive effect on us.
I also feel, even though we have such busy lifestyles, it’s nice to take the time to read, think about the stuff of life, and give your brain something nourishing to chew on.

Carefully selected Art and design books inside the shop.
Carefully selected Art and design books inside the shop.

You are sure to find something fascinating to read in the Shōin-Jinjamae area at the very cool ‘nostos books’. Please check it out.

nostos books

  • Address:4-2-12 Setagaya, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo.
  • Opening hours:12-8pm (closed Wednesdays).
  • Telephone:03-5799-7982
  • Website text only)


The Bakumatsu Ishin Festival’s Mikoshi (a shrine carried on the shoulders of local people through the streets of their town).
The Bakumatsu Ishin Festival’s Mikoshi (a shrine carried on the shoulders of local people through the streets of their town).

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city by coming to Shōin-Jinjamae, somewhere you can pass the time at your own pace. With its’ calming, easygoing atmosphere, it has a charm you’ll want to visit again and again.
Spend a day here and you can also learn something a little different, please give it a try.

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I have experience studying abroad in Germany and traveled 17 countries before. Love Korean food, Love Astronaut, Love Croatia. I will send everyone exciting information of Japan! Enjoy it!